Active reading involves reading a book with a child rather than reading a book to a child. This evidence-based approach improves children’s language skills, vocabulary, and ability to understand what they read on their own.
Active reading works with children from as young as six months through sixth grade. (For the younger children you’ll want to focus more on the pictures.) In active reading, an adult shares a picture book with a child and provides the child with multiple opportunities to talk about and engage with the pictures, words and ideas in the book. The adult’s role is to be an active listener, ask questions, and get the child talking and thinking about the book.
Ask questions that cannot be answered in one word (yes, no, or single word references from the story). Open-ended questions often begin with:
Active Reading: Again (and Again)
If you have a young child you’ll be reading the same books over and over (and over). You can do active reading every time you read, or some times, depending on what your child wants. It’s all about following your child’s lead. When our research assistant sits down with her toddler to read a new book, the first few readings are just about hearing the book, then, when they both know the book, she uses more active reading strategies. The idea is to encourage your child to talk about the book and, the more you read a book the more your child will be able to talk about it. Eventually, your child will be able to read the book to you!
Active reading also involves providing good feedback to the answers your child gives you. For example, imagine that while reading No, David!, you ask your child “What did David do?” and she tells you that “David was dirty.” You can use this three-step process to give your child feedback:
|Step||What you do||Example|
|Evaluate||Tell your child if their answer is right or wrong||Yes, he is dirty|
|Expand||Add more information to your child’s response
Ask a follow up question
|He tracked mud on the carpet too
How do you think his mom felt when David got the carpet dirty?
|Repeat||Repeat the question to see what your child has learned||What did David do?|